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Policy Statement 496 - Innovative Financing for Transportation Projects

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on May 16, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on August 9, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on October 14, 2019

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports innovative financing programs for transportation projects and advocates making programs available in all states. Additionally, the states and federal government should make every effort to develop new programs and/or additional flexibility in innovative procurement approaches.  

ASCE supports Public Private Partnerships (P3s) and Infrastructure Banks as innovative mechanisms to procure and/or finance transportation projects. These mechanisms should meet the criteria listed below.  

Public Private Partnerships (P3s):

  • Any public revenue derived from P3s must be dedicated exclusively back to comparable infrastructure facilities in the state or locality where the project is based. Revenue and assessment of revenue should be reported annually to the general public in a public forum available to access by all;
  • The P3 contract includes, at a minimum, performance criteria that address long-term viability, life cycle costs, return on public and private investment, takeover and turnback, projected yearly revenue, identification of responsible parties and their roles, and residual value;
  • Transparency and public participation in all aspects of contract development, project implementation and any subsequent operation;
  • There is participation and compliance by both public and private partners with all applicable planning and design standards, and environmental requirements. Appropriate professionals including professional engineers should be part of this process; 
  • The selection of engineering firms as prime consultants and subconsultants should be based solely on the qualifications of the engineering firm;
  • Furthermore, a small and disadvantaged business program should be included with establishment of participation goals, outreach provisions, local company and human resources preferences, and presentation of plans to achieve stated goals and provisions; and
  • Examples of financing mechanisms used on P3 transportation projects include, but are not limited to: municipal bonds, private activity bonds (PABs), advance refunding bonds, Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans, Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEEs), and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loans, tolling, and asset recycling. 

Infrastructure Banks: 

  • Should be capitalized initially by general fund appropriations and should be self-sustaining after an initial start-up period; 
  • Should develop financing packages for selected projects which could include direct subsidies, direct loan guarantees, long-term tax-credit general purpose bonds, and long-term tax-credit infrastructure project-specific bonds; 
  • Should not replace existing infrastructure funding and financing mechanisms, but act as a supplement to leverage additional federal, state, local, and private infrastructure financing;
  • Should be projects that contribute to growth, employment, socioeconomic impact, resiliency, environmental sustainability, and regional cohesion that supports a national system; and
  • Should provide project preparation and technical assistance to ensure well-structured, viable projects. 

Issue

Innovative financing techniques can greatly benefit infrastructure development by better leveraging available resources to deliver more capital. As such, they can have a powerful effect on delivering projects and public benefits sooner as compared to conventional methods. This has been the approach in many states where expanded and accelerated transportation investment programs have been successful. Innovative financing techniques, including toll road-based funding, figure heavily in many of these state programs.  

Rationale

The sources of transportation funding are shifting more and more from federal to state and local resources to fund the growing need for transportation improvements.  The innovative finance changes in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) (Pub.L. 112-141) and Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) (Pub.L. 114-94) have been a good start, but more needs to be done to expand their scope, and new programs or approaches must be introduced. We must find new and innovative ways to finance the critical transportation infrastructure needs of the nation. 

In addition, technological advancements are providing new capabilities, flexibility, and efficiencies for roadway pricing and collection of user fees. These capabilities should be fully explored to support innovative financing methods. 

Financing alternatives cannot replace a public commitment to funding.  Innovative financing techniques allow projects to be accelerated to deliver benefits sooner by efficiently borrowing against future revenues available for transportation funding.  Without innovative financing programs, borrowing for project construction could be significantly more costly or not possible. Financing by any technique does not supplant the need for adequate user fees or other sources of revenue and funding to eventually pay for projects. 

ASCE Policy Statement 496
First Approved in 2002

The other ASCE policies that relate to innovative financing are:

  • PS 382 Transportation Funding
  • PS 526 Public-Private Partnerships
  • PS 434 Transportation Trust Funds
  • PS 532 National Infrastructure Bank 


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